The Writing Disorder


New Fiction


by Ben Orlando

       Euripides S. LeGrande, eyes still closed, pulled the bed sheet from his chest and listened to the roar of the falls somewhere in the distance. For a while he lay in bed, imagining himself caught up in the current, struggling and then letting it sweep him over the edge, into the frothy white below.
      Sliding the sheet away from his legs, Euripides paused as his fingers slipped across skin that was not his own.
      “Mmm, stop moving Euri…”
      Euripides realized there was a girl in his bed the same time he saw the twenty-something blonde, not Josephine, throw off the pillow and grab the sheet to cover her small naked frame.
      He did not remember this girl, or this room, or the previous night.
      “How bout some coffee,” the girl said, suddenly awake. Euripides wobbled to his feet, but as his brain moved from horizontal to vertical, two invisible hands twisted and squeezed the ligaments that connected his eyes to his brain. He collapsed onto the bed, hands on head.
      “Did you get my coffee already?” the girl asked with a mischievous grin.
      “Give me a minute.”
      “If I don’t get my coffee, I’m going to scream.”
      Experienced in awkward morning afters, Euripides once again struggled to his feet, stumbled to the bathroom and ran his head under the tub faucet until the girl screamed, “My coffee!”
      Eventually he found the pot under the sink, and brewed a few watery cups while attempting to push his fingers into his brain.
      “You sure did talk a lot last night,” the girl told him as he set the plastic tray on the nightstand.
      “What did I say?” He did not want to know what he said.
      “You were in the circus?”
      Euripides mumbled an affirmative and handed her a Styrofoam cup.
      “So what was your thing?”
      “I didn’t have a thing,” he told her. “I was just there.”
      “But didn’t you say something about a—”
      “Well…” The girl took a sip and narrowed her eyes, “It’s all pretty weird. So you said you’re a doctor, then?”
      Euripides winced and bit his tongue. Was she just going to sit there and bombard him with irritating questions, this complete stranger?
      “Not yet,” he told her. It had been “not yet” for the last twelve years. Twelve years of sleeping in cars, paying thirty dollars a month for a twenty-four-hour gym membership until the wonderful day his residency began.
      Euripides S. LeGrande was thirty-one-years old, and had been attending medical school for more than a decade, never able to enjoy one moment of accomplishment because there was always something. Like the unread letters from his mother, piled up in his closet. Like his ex girlfriend Sue Noems. There was a mistake. One of those four-year regrets. And now?
      “My mother’s dying,” he told the girl in the bed.
      A week ago he’d received a letter from the ageless Solomon Morse of the Morse Brothers Circus.
      “We’ll be outside Toronto for the next week,” Morse wrote in his psychotic chicken scratch. “Don’t know how long she’ll hold out.”
      Five days of that week had already slipped by in a haze of crowded bars and sexual encounters. Euripides had traveled from Syracuse with mixed intentions, deciding to spend a night in the gaudy, trashy, Vegas-like atmosphere of Niagara in order to think things over. But the more he thought about his mother, and his past, the more he wanted to drink.

      “So what’d she do to you?”
      Euripides stared at the girl through his fingers, wondered for a moment where she would be this afternoon, if people would see her—at the store, on a bus—and know what she was.
      “She stabbed me in the back.”
      The girl reached out, lifted his shirt.
      “Not literally,” he said, slapping her hand away. For a moment, the embarrassed look in her eyes reminded him of Mary Louise Polk, the moment after his mother had humiliated him in front of Mary and fourteen other ‘normal’ witnesses.
      Mary Louise had talked to him, sought him out during the shows. For three months, while the Circus moved through northern New York, the petite fourteen-year-old was always there, smiling, inviting him for a walk—looking at him like no girl, no person, had ever looked at him. Until his mother found out, and put an end to it, her way.
       “Well maybe your mom’s sorry,” the girl suggested.
      “Or maybe she’s just dying.”
      Euripides thought about saying more, but figured he’d probably said enough the night before.
      After slipping a Syracuse sweatshirt over his throbbing skull, he grabbed his pants, and his wallet, and hesitated. This was by far the worst part.
      “Um, how much do I owe…”
      The girl’s brown eyes bulged. “I’m not a whore, you asshole.”
      Euripides dropped his coffee onto his boxers and cried out, quieting for a moment the offended blonde. This was the fourth time he’d mistaken an amateur for a working girl.
      After Sue Noems, Euripides had slept exclusively with prostitutes. He enjoyed the lack of effort, the lack of commitment, and the low probability that he’d wake up the next morning to a burning mattress. But in the game of blind man’s sex, a promiscuous civilian was bound to slip into the mix.
      “Sorry, sorry, I…”
      “Fifty dollars,” the blonde said through a mouthful of coffee.
       “For calling me a whore,” she argued and grinned as she held out her hand.
      Maybe she is a whore, Euripides thought, and this is her technique. Everyone had a technique.
      “Besides,” the girl added as Euripides crumbled three bills into her delicate hand, “all that circus talk, and stabbing whatnot, and you’re tail … yeah I know.”
      “It’s not there anymore,” he said in defense, but the girl merely shook her head. “I should go to the cops, you freak.”
      Last night, had she called him a freak, he would have probably overreacted, done something … regrettable, like the time with Sue, and her bicycle chain. But now in the morning light, his head pounding, Euripides did not want to act. He closed his eyes, and let the roar of the falls wash away any context of time or place.
      “Hello? Hey, loser?” The girl shimmied into her Rainbow Brite skirt and tried to get his attention, but instead of responding, Euripides breathed in the faint scent of watery coffee, and her deoderant: Spring Bouquet, or something.
      Through closed eyes, he listened to the girl pack her small bag, slip on her sandals, and walk to the door.
      “Not that I give a shit,” she said, “but last night somebody called.”
       “What? Who?”
      “I don’t know, from some place called Sugar Bees. See ya, freak.”
      Eurpides opened his eyes and mouthed these strange words. “Sugar Bees. Sugar Bees.” He jumped off the bed and searched the room, found a nightclub receipt on the floor next to the night stand, small words etched in ink on the back: “Paul Hornsby, Dooshomp sword. Sugar Bees?”
      “Ahh!” he shouted and instantly regretted the shout as a small grenade exploded inside his skull.
      Searching his wallet, Euripides found the number for the Manhattan auction house and picked up the phone. Two days ago, anger and financial despair and vodka getting the better of him, he’d called Sotheby’s to inquire about his mother’s treasured heirloom, inherited from his father when his father died in a make believe duel.
      Euripides did not always hate his parents, and occasionally, he even thought he loved them. Mostly, however, he simply wanted to forget and move on.
      Maybe if I take the sabre, he irrationally rationalized, and say what I have to say to her once and for all, it will end. He knew this outcome was not likely, but still he wrapped the idea around his head like a warm blanket around a shivering pup.
      But when he’d called the auction house and asked for an appraisal on a dueling sabre once owned and wielded by Marcel Duchamp, the man on the other end snorted a bit too loudly.
      “Duchamp?” the man asked. “The French painter, a sword fighter?”
      “Yes,” Euripides replied, but before he could explain, the man hung up.

      Staring at the note scribbled by the girl who’d never given her name, Euripides dialed Sotheby’s and asked this time for Paul Hornsby. A minute later, a fast-talking British man came on the line, sounded as if he were eating the mouth piece.
      “So sorry for that ignoramus.” Hornsby was an antiques expert specializing in French Twentieth-Century duels.
      “Not many people know of Duchamp’s prowess with the blade,” the expert told Euripides. “For a surrealist, Duchamp had great footwork.”
      “It wasn’t his feet,” Euripides told the nasally Brit. “It was his balance. Anyway, how much?”
      “There is only one known Duchamp sabre,” the man said, clearly excited and rushing his words, “so if this is, I mean, if you really do have another, and the authenticity can be proved, well, well, the first sabre resold last year in London for eighty-thousand pounds.”
      In his mind, Euripides saw his debt, all ninety thousand dollars of it, standing next to his crying mother. He’d take the sword, and leave them both crying. This was the motivation he needed, something beyond regret, remorse, familial duties.
      “May I ask,” the man said, “how you’ve come by this, um, quite valuable item?”
      In his drunken stupor, in the presence of prostitutes, Euripides had probably told the story a thousand times in excruciating detail. But now, sober and ailing, he gave the antiques expert the abbreviated version.
      “My father stabbed Duchamp in a duel in 1967. The sword was his prize.” In truth Euripides’ father had stabbed Duchamp and then stolen the sabre, but this type of story, Euripides thought, would not sit well with an auction house.
       Before Hornsby could summon a response, Euripides hung up. In the next half hour, he gathered his things, ran to the drug store for a bottle of aspirin, and boarded a bus for Toronto.

      One gift the circus had given Euripides was the ability to sleep anywhere. Growing up a freak wanting to leave one world for another, he’d often wracked his brain for a normal job that required this ability, thrived on this ability. He came up with doctor.
      Another tenet, though he wouldn’t call it a gift, inherited from The Morse Brothers, was a fervent policy of never borrowing anything from anyone, a policy that would degrade his body and soul over the next fifteen years.
      After he’d walked away from the circus at the age of sixteen, Euripides had nothing. He lacked possessions, clothes, money, and most importantly, an identity.
      Working mostly as a busboy or landscape laborer, and moving on when people began to ask questions, he forged addresses and parents’ signatures, a birth certificate (he kept his father’s name) and a social security number, in order to get his paychecks, and later, his GED. He then proceeded towards his goal of becoming an emergency room surgeon.
      Euripides was accepted into one program, at Syracuse, but without student or private loans, he could not pay his tuition and survive at the same time. He went without a car, an apartment and three meals a day. When not studying or poking through a bloated cadaver, Euripides worked mostly in fast food restaurants, taking home each night as many cheeseburgers and subs he could cram into his pants.
      Yet even with all these sacrifices, he could still not afford the tuition, and against his principles, against the nature drilled into him for sixteen years, Euripides applied for student loans. With this new debt, however, he felt guiltier than ever and worked even harder to keep the damage to a minimum. It was a losing battle he simultaneously fought and ignored.
      The best job by far was security guard. Without this cushy gig, he might not have survived. For five years Euripides caught up on much needed sleep, night after night, guarding locked buildings from would-be thieves, until one day these thieves arrived, and while Euripides slept, they cleaned the place out, completely and utterly.
      The morning after the robbery, the store manager woke Euripides from a deep sleep.
      “One,” said the manager, counting off with his fingers, “you got robbed.”
      While Euripides’ eyes moved across empty shelves and broken televisions scattered across the floor, the manager moved onto number two, “You’re fired.”
      As Euripides stumbled to his feet, the frightening vision of a return to McDonalds or Wal-Mart brought tears to his eyes. The manager saw his tears, and placed his hand on Euripides’ shoulder.
      “Tip,” the man told him. “Don’t try to get another security job. You’ll be blacklisted in about a week.” And so it went. Walking through days and sleeping on car seats and gurneys, Euripides dwelled on the life he’d led, the life that had brought him only struggle and hate. “If only I had a nuke,” he often fantasized, “I’d blow that fucking circus to kingdom come.”
      Right cheek pressed against the cold Greyhound window, a light rain crawling across the glass, Euripides wondered if his mother, the normal who’d married a freak, deserved his animosity, for it was not fair, was it, to throw out a lifetime of deeds in exchange for one act? But it wasn’t one act, it was every day, his mother telling him “You can’t go out there, they won’t accept you,” the silhouette of his father shadow fighting on the other side of the tent. Sometimes the silhouette could barely stand, but always, it found the equilibrium. Until it died, along with the man attached to it.
      No one in the circus was inherently nasty. The other performers, and even cold, deliberate Solomon Morse, had treated Euripides with respect and affection. They taught him to love books and appreciate individuality, but because he had chosen not to perform, there was something missing in the greetings, the exchanges and celebrations within the camp. For all of the years he could remember within those fabric walls, Euripides felt like a mutt standing on a fence between two worlds. He’d look out at the patrons, knowing he was not like them, and he’d look to his extended family of freaks, and know there was something missing here as well. He understood the circus, and what it represented, but he also hated these people, especially his mother, for molding him into a man who could not easily exist outside of them.
      In the back of the Greyhound, Euripides flinched awake when he sensed someone next to him. He opened his eyes, and saw the girl he’d slept with in Niagara lowering the arm rest he’d intentionally lifted to discourage intruders. This was not the blonde girl who’d called him a freak. This was a prostitute, a genuine prostitute, named Josephine. Euripides remembered the name because of its out-of-time feel, and because the three previous hookers went by Misty, Onyx, and the elegant Sapphire. All in all he’d spent five nights with five different women, and collectivity, he recalled less than ten minutes of his deadening escapades. Except for Josephine. He remembered, somehow, enjoying his time with her.
      Josephine was younger than the blonde, maybe college graduate age, Euripides thought, even though he defied this classification. Josephine had tired eyes on a young face, but she seemed genuinely content.
      “So you headed to the circus?” she asked him and rested the palm of her manicured hand on his crotch. She’d sought him out three nights ago, made a bet with him that he was not too drunk to get it up. Euripides lost, and paid up the next morning.
      “You’re a good sport,” she’d told him, and slid off the bed into her denim skirt. “So how about you buy me a waffle.”
      As the bus lurched over a bump or maybe a dead goose, Euripides looked at the girl with jet-black hair pulled tight in a bun, a pair of wire frames hanging for dear life on the end of her nose. Was this the same girl who shoved dinner-plate-sized waffles into her mouth, one after the other? How much did she know? Did he tell all the girls everything? Of course he did. In the mornings he always pretended that maybe he hadn’t said much. But always, he’d said it all. This, to Euripides, was the largest benefit of a one-night girlfriend.
      “I’m not going to a circus,” he lied, at which point Josephine leaned over the arm rest, crammed her hand down the back of his pants, and squeezed.
      Euripides jumped into the window.
      “I was just going to visit my mom,” she told him, “but I can go with you to see yours.”
      “Thanks, Josephine, but I told you—”
      “C’mon Euri, and call me Josie. You confessed to me, and now I’m yours. Didn’t you ever hear that old Chinese proverb?”
      Euripides backpedaled, but his back was already plastered against the window.
      “I know you now,” she said. “I know how she embarrassed you, pulled down your pants in front of the girl you thought you loved.”
      “I did love!”
      “The girl you thought didn’t know about your secret.”
      “I never performed, never showed them” he said, hearing the ridiculousness of this logic but not caring, because he had to believe Mary Louise Polk didn’t know, that she would have accepted him…if it wasn’t for them. He sank back into the seat and took a deep breath.
      “It doesn’t matter that your mother, the rest, they were only trying to help, to get the truth out sooner than later.”
      “Enough.” He turned towards the window, but Josie continued.
      “She wouldn’t let you go to school, buy anything, see anything, and when you left, you felt like you had to start from scratch.”
      “Jesus shut up! I told you to stop.”
      When Josie touched him, wrapped her arm around his twitching back, he didn’t protest, and when she leaned close to his ear, he closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of Peppermint Altoids.
      “I was just kidding about that confession thing,” she told him. “But seriously. We’re soulmates. Your father was a performer, right?”
      “A drunk.”
      “My father was a performer too.”
       Euripides turned and addressed her with different eyes.
      “When I knew him,” she said, “he was all washed up, but he acted like there was still a chance … of something, you know?”
      Euripides slowly nodded, as if his neck ached with every motion, when in fact he was surprisingly pain free.
      “My father,” he told her, “brought the largest crowds in the history of our, their circus, even half in the bag. He was the world dueling champion, 1971-74. I guess I told you his special weapon.”
      “You mean his tail, for balance? Yeah, you told me. But your mom—”
      “You don’t think a tail is … strange?”
      “There’s a woman in Nairobi,” Josie said without missing a beat, “who has no tongue but can talk just fine. And in Calcutta, there’s a guy with three eyes on his face, radiation or something. But he’s got twenty-twenty vision in all three.”
      “Okay,” Euripides said. “I see your point.”
      “Once you open yourself up to the possibilities,” she said, “everything’s normal, and nothing’s normal … that sounds like bullshit, sorry. And your mom?”
      “No tail, no talent.”
      “And then there’s you.”
      Euripides did not respond as Josie’s hand moved over the scar on his lower back. “So both our dads,” he said, “were drunks. Did yours get himself killed?”
      “Both our dads,” she replied, “had, at one point, achieved something spectacular. They made people appreciate life, showed everyone what a human being was capable of.”
      “They came to see his tail.”
      ”Maybe,” she said. “But they came back for the performance.”
      “How would you know?”
      “Imagine, Euri, stepping outside yourself, slowing down time, achieving perfection. Can you imagine that?”
      Searching for the best stinging reply, Euripides sighed, and finally answered, “No.”
      “Me neither,” she agreed, and pulled the tip of something red from her front jeans pocket.

      After Sue Noems, Euripides had not been with the same woman twice. He wanted to avoid the familiarity that bred grudges and jealousy and burning mattresses.
      Josie, for all of her insight, exhibited some of the same nervous energy he remembered from his nightmarish years with Sue. But there was something in Josie’s grin, or was it in her eyes, that convinced him of her bedrock sanity. He knew she would never erupt, would never swear out a warrant for his arrest, just like he knew the last fifteen years of his life, the last twelve years of school, were somehow ending, about to turn into something else. He didn’t know why, but picturing tomorrow, Euripides could not imagine his current self.
      “You’re scared,” she said, and loosened his belt. The only other passengers, two elderly couples and a large Native American man, slept or read near the front of the bus.
      “You know,” she whispered into his ear, slipping her fingers under his boxers, “I would’ve screwed you for free.”
      Euripides gulped. Not again. “So you’re not…”
      “No, I am,” she reassured him. “But usually if I like the guy, it’s just sex. With you, I had to bet.”
      She had the answer ready, as if she’d given it a dozen times. “Some people need an excuse. Now.” Slipping her jeans around her ankles as she adjusted her panties, Josie unzipped his pants and shifted herself on top of him.
      “Anyone looking?”
      Euripides, too amazed to properly express himself, focused on the rear view mirror in the front of the bus, but the driver did not notice or did not care.
      “I don’t have a condom.”
      “And you didn’t before, either. Do you have anything?”
      He wasn’t sure if she meant condoms or sexually transmitted diseases. He replied “No,” for both, because Hepatitis A was something you could get rid of.
      “Well I’m all set,” she said, and for some reason, Euripides took this to mean everything he wanted it to mean.
      Peeking over her shoulder in both directions, Josie pulled a long piece of red ribbon from her front pocket, an act that reminded Euripides of their first night together.
      “Where are the handcuffs?” he said, hearing in his mind the click as his hands became one with the bed post.
      “Different place, different symbol,” she said while tying his hands to the back of the head rest. Euripides wanted to touch, wanted to sink his fingers into her soft snowy flesh, but he would not complain about this strange compromise.
       As they moved west along the coastline of Lake Ontario, the United States fading away with the rest of his life, Euripides had sex with a woman, on a bus, twice, all the while completely and utterly sober. Today was the beginning of his reinvention. But knowing things are going to change is not the same as knowing how.
      Hands strapped behind his head, he leaned into her breasts so she wouldn’t see his tears, and they remained in this state, more or less, for the next hour and a half.

      The circus was not as he remembered it. More specifically, he hadn’t remembered it being so completely disheartening. Squeezed into a three-acre plot in a small park twenty miles from Toronto, the Morse Brothers Circus was a wounded deer struggling to reach the shoulder.
      A few dozen tents sported torn seams and window-sized holes, while ragged animals (a mule, a zebra, a black bear, and a handful of dogs) roamed the grounds like confused senior citizens let loose at the mall.
      He tried to picture this place before he’d left. Was it always this bad, so ominous and depressing?
      “This place is the pits, right? “Josie forced a laugh and followed his eyes from one sorry animal to another. “Someone should drop a nuke on this place, put them out of their misery.”
      “Yeah,” he said, not really listening. As he stared at the tents, the ghosts moving around in the background, Euripides did not think of the circus. He thought of life with Mary Louis Polk, if somehow they’d ended up together. That life, even if only in his mind, was ripped away by everyone here.
      “I just need five minutes,” he mumbled and swallowed a mouthful of rancid, fetid air as he climbed over a sagging rope and took one step towards the interior of the camp.
       “Wait.” Josie grabbed his arm. “Let’s make a deal.”
      “Josie, I don’t really feel—“
      “Don’t go in there.”
      Euripides turned and stared at this girl, woman, this strange surprise in his life. Since taking his seat on the bus, Josie had been nothing but confident, relaxed and philosophical. Now the doubt in her voice, and the look on her face, caused Euripides to see her anew, someone he hadn’t yet met.
      “I don’t think this was a good idea,” she said, and forced a smile. “You should get on with your life, finish your degree, or training, whatever.”
      “Are you insane?”
      Josie parted her lips, ready to speak, but her words turned into a sigh.
      “I’m not leaving without the sabre,” he told her, and took one step before noticing the small, hobbled figure in the distance. A little old man shuffled along, carrying a cane, wearing a tattered top hat, and walking alongside a mule, his hand on the sickly animal’s back for support.
      “Oh my god,” Euripides whispered, and stepped back into the rope.
       The recent letter had confirmed Euripides’ gut feeling that Solomon Morse, original founding member of the Morse Brothers Circus during the Great Depression, was somehow still alive, but seeing the man preserved in actual flesh seemed to Euripides like the final stage of some pact with the devil.
      “C’mon,” Sophie insisted. “Lets go back to Niagara. I have some money. We can get a place on the lake.”
      “What the hell are you talking about!” Euripides pulled away as the old man passed the last tent, parted company with the mule, and screamed with surprising depth, “Ho there, visitors!”
      No one spoke until Solomon Morse hobbled to within a few feet of the perimeter rope. Up close, beyond the wrinkled, sunken skin and half-dollar-sized liver spots, the owner’s dark eyes still produced the shrewd glare of a man in charge of many things, his feet still solidly planted in this world.
      Solomon leaned forward, his faded black barker’s hat almost falling off his shrunken head. Euripides remembered Solomon constantly buffing his top hat, once grand, now holy and worn through, and bare of the red ribbon that once circled the base.
      Euripides turned to Josie, who was staring at the old man with genuine affection. Without believing it, he watched her pull the red ribbon from her bag, lean forward and carefully wrap the satin cloth around the old man’s hat.
      Solomon kissed Josie on the cheek and turned to Euripides, his leathery hand extended.
      “And how are you, Euri?”
      Euripides stepped back. “What’s going on?” he whispered, not sure he wanted to know.
      The old man glanced at Josie, and then turned back to Euripides with a sigh.
      “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
      Over the old man’s shoulder, Euripides watched a handful of misshapen, unrecognizable figures drag an unwilling mare into the center tent. From somewhere inside the tent, the animal whinnied and snorted.
      “My mother,” Euripides said, and closed his eyes, and thought about those wasted days in Niagara drinking and fucking. Stalling, perhaps wishing this would be the end result.
      Again, the old man looked at Josephine before answering.
      “Two years ago.”
      Not thinking about his feet or any part of his body, Euripides retreated, tripped over the rope and fell backwards into a shallow puddle of mud.
      “Don’t worry,” the old man assured him, reaching forward as if to help, as if he could. “The sabre is still here. Naturally, as the oldest heir, you are entitled.”
      “Oldest?” As Euripides sat on the ground, numb, unable to focus on any one thing, the two people next to him continued to speak.
      “It’s done,” she told Solomon.
      “How do you know already? You can’t know already.”
      “I know,” she hissed. “Some things… There’s no need for him anymore.”
      “But what if he wants—”
      “He doesn’t.”
      “What are you talking about!” Euripides used the perimeter rope to pull himself to his feet, unable to decide whom to confront and how.
      Glancing once more at the concerned, stubborn young woman, Solomon Morse subtly bowed towards Euripides. “I hear you are almost a doctor,” he said, and smiled as he began to shuffle away. Euripides noticed, only half the face smiled.
      Euripides and Josephine said nothing, until the worn, slanted top hat disappeared behind a distant tent.
      “So you still don’t know?” Her tone was kind, considerate, but slightly annoyed.
      When Euripides did not reply, Josie turned, and stared at him with the innocent, horrified expression of the fourteen-year-old girl on that day…He was no longer staring into the eyes of a strange hooker.
      “Mary Louise? No. No?
      Euripides felt his stomach compress into a fist.
      “Well I couldn’t tell you my name was Josephine LeGrande.”
      “Mary was blonde.”
      “Don’t be stupid, Euri. Didn’t you think it strange that a little fourteen-year-old girl would show up in Milton, and then appear at the next show a hundred miles away?”
      Flipping through his memories, one by one, Euripides tried to picture Mary Louise Polk hanging around the camp, wanting to talk to him, ask him questions, hold his hand. Yes it was weird, but he was a child, and Mary Louise was a friend. Motives didn’t matter. The little girl’s reasons didn’t matter.
      “When your mother grabbed your pants?” Josie said, “yanked them to the ground, she knew I wouldn’t care, but you didn’t know. She wanted you to leave. She didn’t want us to…”
      He turned away and looked at the ground because staring at her was not helping.
      “When your father died, Solomon said I could move into the camp, but first he wanted us to…”
      “To what?”
      “To fuck, Euri, he wanted us to fuck.”
      Euripides turned and looked up. “Us? Why would Solomon want us to…”
      His mind unable to keep up to the present developments, Euripides rewound the tape and listened to Josie’s words from a few minutes earlier. Josephine LeGrande. She said her name was LeGrande.
      Josie shrugged. “You said it yourself. Henri LeGrande was the best draw this circus had ever seen. You wouldn’t believe how hard, impossible it is to find a tail, a real tail.”
      He’d been staring at her eyes, so green, so familiar, when a seemingly random memory entered his mind. Three nights ago, on the bed, Josie handcuffing him to the bed post. On the bus, Josie strapping his hands to the head rest. In all their time together, he’d never touched … her back.
      In a moment of clear, unencumbered, rational thought, Euripides stepped forward, stared into the eyes of the woman he’d slept with but never touched, and wedged his hand down the back of her jeans.
      Eyes opening wide, Josie smiled. “Not as big as yours … was,” she whispered. “Or your father’s.”
      “Our father’s,” he mumbled.
      This time, Euripides’ legs simply gave out, and he fell back into the mud.
      “Not to be inhuman,” she told him, and stepped over the rope, “but I need to talk to Solomon. I think you should wait here. Sorry Euri.”
      Euripides looked at the ground, looked at Josie. “You and I…”
      “Nobody’s forcing you to do anything. The loaf’s in the oven. We didn’t think … anyway, you can go if you want, become a doctor, save lives. I promise, we won’t ever bother you again.”
      As he lay in the mud, staring into the dark clouds, Josie faded from his periphery, just as everything else had faded, leaving Euripides to wonder what he would have tomorrow.

Over the years, Ben Orlando has roamed the globe, attempted many professions and finally settled on writing as the career that would pay the least and cause the most frustration. Ben teaches at the Columbus College of Art and Design while attempting every day to write a story that will stop traffic, alter the course of tropical storms, and finally win the war on war.

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